Last one – A Confession.
Every parent I run into lately is worrying about their child’s first penance. Mine still stands out clearly in my mind to this day.
Waiting in the glaringly shiny, highly polished pews – clasping my sweaty palms together. Nervously trying to sort out what I was going to say. Rehearsing the dialogue in my head because I was SURE I was going to forget my speaking part. This, officially, ended my acting career mind you. All this going through my mind while staring at the ornately carved door that led to the tiny, dusty, spider filled room. I was hyperventilating just thinking about it. I was truly freaking out!
My turn. Oh. No.
The priest opens the door to peer at me through that baroque wooden screen. What could I have possibly done wrong to be forced into this miniature torture chamber? I was all of seven years old. As old as my youngest is now. The worst thing he does is not go to sleep on time. I was much more, ahem, rambunctious than he is, but still? I was seven, give me a break.
“Bless me father for I have sinned. This is my first confession. I…I…I….”
And then I did it, I lied in the confessional. I don’t even remember what I said. I do remember thinking that whatever it was I did do, I couldn’t possibly tell this priest what it was. Because, let’s face it, that wooden screen was not doing it’s job of giving me anonymity as I already mentioned. He knew darn well that it was me on the other side of that screen. He knew my name. He knew my sister. He knew my aunt. He knew all of their friends. How could I tell him the truth? This was some kind of trick they were trying to play on me. Was there a camera in the corner filming me like in Candid Camera? Was that guy going to jump out and fill me in on this cruel joke?
No jack in the box for me. This was real! Then, I couldn’t stop myself. The lies kept coming and coming and coming. Finally, my tongue started to feel swollen and my throat felt like it was filled with sawdust. The words finally got stuck there and halted.
Phew. That wasn’t so bad.
Is that all child?
I got off pretty easy I thought. I didn’t go to hell and my palms were finally dry. My penance. It was something like ten Our Fathers and three Hail Marys. All for LYING to him. It was absurd, and I knew it. He must have known I was lying. Didn’t he? Maybe not. I could get good at this.
Go in Peace.
I always made up for it by asking for forgiveness for whatever it was that I thought I did wrong. I’d look up at the statue of Joseph on the side altar staring down at me while I was reciting my Our Fathers and tell him what it was I really did – which, like I said, what could it have been I was only seven. I’d double whatever the penance was just to put a band-aid on the guilt I was feeling and just for good measure in case everything about going to hell if I didn’t confess my sins was really true.
I find the whole topic cringe worthy to this day. I realize my experience is not the same or even close to being the same as everyone elses, but it was mine. I became a confessional professional after that. I still had anxiety about going into that dusty cubicle, but I never worried about what I was going to say during confession again. I knew something would come to me.